Record Reviews

Royal Headache

Does the debut album by Sydney’s Pitchfork-endorsed Royal Headache live up to the hype? STEPH KRETOWICZ reports.


Royal Headache comes up as another band lauded by punk and pop lover alike for their straight-to-the-point rock’n?roll sunk in the mire of low fidelity. Praised for being some kind of reaction to the apparent snobbery of the [NOTVs](/articles/3959464) and [Circle Pits](/articles/3917459) of Sydney’s uber-cool, super-small underground music scene, the four-piece of punk and hardcore misfits span the likes of Straight Arrows, Nintendo Police and Bedwettin? Bad Boys.

As the legend goes, they set up camp ?wherever? and performed their shambolic sets, along with blown-out amps and exploding energy. It wasn’t long before indie-hip conveyor-belt Pitchfork [sniffed them out](/news/3709940) to add to their loaded roster of same-sounding coolsies and featured reel-to-reel recording, [?Eloise?](/releases/2000567), in 2009. The rest of us bought into the hype and called them the Next Big Thing, just behind Jet and Eddy Current Suppression Ring. You might argue that putting the early millennial one-album wonders in the same sentence as ECSR is a bad call but, in characterising Royal Headache’s long-awaited self-titled debut LP (boasting the aesthetic of the latter with the longevity of the former) it makes a bit of sense.


Really In Love – Royal Headache by Mess+Noise


On listening to this short burst of thinly disguised power pop, one can’t help but wonder, since when does being a good bloke on the margins automatically promote your music to the creative vanguard just because, especially because, it’s trending? With Pitchfork being what it is – a self-perpetuating tastemaker with a bottleneck population problem of fringing favouritism – these boys join the leagues of flash-in-the-pan ?it? bands whose contribution to the world of music is sounding like their contemporaries. Here, songwriting shortfalls are exposed on skimming the film of reverb and degradation from their milky tracks.

?Royal Headache comes across, less as a band, more as a movement with a message, and a rather mundane one at that.?

An unimaginative bass line follows the ebbing chord progression of ?Two Kinds of Love? like a stray animal, offering no variation or personalisation, while instrumental counterpart ?Wilson Street? presents little more than jangling guitar filler. The thing is, these two songs stand out as a refuge of melodic harmony, safe from lead singer Shogun’s jarring intrusion. On hearing the chafing vocal seesaw of repetition in ?Honey Joy? one cannot fathom the pronouncement of Royal Headache as ?punk that can sing?. It’s almost as perplexing as the middle-aged female population’s infatuation with Rod Stewart’s emphysemic drawl – a delivery that, coincidentally, shares an affinity with Shogun’s.

There are bright moments of sardonic clarity, however. While musing over the trials of slacker romance, ?Down the Lane? waltzes through the convulsing enunciation of, “I’ve been alone/ and I’d take you home/But my bedroom smells like cum?, while album closer ?Pity? ends on an energetic climax. Lyrical gymnastics and a robotic diction matches the hyperactive vigor of the band’s hardcore roots, along with the festering resentment of affectation that permeates all that they stand for: ?You walk around/Like you own this bloody town/Stop thinking that you’re cool/You’re just bloody fool.?

Essentially, though, Royal Headache comes across, less as a band, more as a movement with a message, and a rather mundane one at that.

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####’Royal Headache’ is out now through R.I.P Society.